April 28, 2016

Pittsburgh Technical Institute (PTI) has been helping students launch a new career path with a post-secondary degree for over 70 years. PTI prides themselves on being attuned to the job market, keeping its curriculum current to ensure their students are successful after graduation.

As the school evolved, their communications stack stayed the same, costing PTI time and money. Using Twilio, PTI overhauled their SIP-based call center and built out a live chat feature integrated with their CRM with ease. And it all started with a school art show.
 

Planting A Seed

In 2012, William Showers, the Director of Information Technology at PTI, wanted to build an SMS voting service for an art-show PTI put on. He did some googling and found his way to the Twilio SMS API docs. Shortly after, he had an app up and running. A seed was planted.

Vendor Woes

If students, parents, or PTI staff had a question, they could dial into PTI’s call center to get an answer. PTI was using a SIP Trunking vendor to power the call center. The vendor PTI had in place didn’t allow PTI to scale their communications hub the way they needed to. When PTI wanted to add a new number for a new building on campus, they had to call their vendor, submit a proposal, and wait up to a week for confirmation. The vendor couldn’t move at the pace of PTI, so they went looking for other providers in 2015.

When Showers shopped for providers, he remembered the art show back in 2012. He went back to the Twilio docs, this time perusing through the SIP documentation, and found what PTI needed.
 
PTIStatistics
 

Choosing Twilio Elastic SIP Trunking

“All of the provisioning with our previous vendor was a phone call,” said Showers. “Now it’s all in the Twilio portal. If I need another 800 number for a marketing campaign, I can get it in the portal. It’s grab and go. We used to wait a week.”

PTI’s previous vendor discontinued their dedicated SIP trunk and pushed their traffic over a public internet connection. This not only caused latency problems for PTI, it was a security issue as well. They wanted privacy in addition to scale, and a guarantee against latency. Now PTI uses a dedicated Twilio SIP trunk that ensures they have a reliable connection, scale and security.

PTI recently launched a feature they couldn’t reliably ship before Twilio. They were one of the first companies to sign-up for E-911 when it launched in public beta. In the event of an emergency, there’s no room for latency. There are strict guidelines around the availability requirements when implementing E-911. PTI didn’t feel comfortable building out the feature until they had a reliable provider.

Twilio’s E-911 offering gives PTI the ability to address emergency calls from anywhere on campus more intelligently and faster than before. When a student makes an emergency call from a phone on PTI’s campus, the emergency dispatcher sees where the call is coming from because Twilio passes that information to the agent programmatically. This saves invaluable time during emergencies where time is always of the essence.

“Twilio is much more stable than our previous provider. It’s been rock solid since day one and our bill has dropped it’s probably a third of what it was,” says Showers

Now PTI uses Twilio’s Elastic SIP Trunking to power their Asterix and .NET based call center. It only took two days for PTI’s team to push all the traffic to Twilio from 500 phones spanning from the main academic building to the dorms.

Since the switch PTI, has had extra time and funding to build new communications solutions for PTI.

Integrating Twilio SMS With An Internal CRM

When you’re serving a student body, you want to meet them where they feel comfortable communicating. For PTI, and many other schools, that place is in the body of a text message.

“The audience we serve is a texting audience, a social media audience, a mobile audience – we want to make sure we can serve them,” says Bart Levitt, Vice President of Marketing at PTI.

Now PTI has a way to serve their students through Twilio-SMS live chat. After building out their SIP integration, PTI integrated their internal CRM with Twilio’s chat client to enable staff to answer questions that students text in, straight from their browser.

Going Forward

PTI has revolutionized the way they communicate on and off campus with students, teachers, and parents alike. Today, they have a new call center and chat client feature. Back in 2012, that was something they couldn’t conceive of. All it took was a school art-show to open up the door of innovation for PTI. Now they’ve stepped through it.

Pittsburgh Technical Institute Switches SIP Based Call Center To Twilio

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Would you laugh if I told you that you could send an SMS in 60 seconds with Java? Well stop what you’re doing and believe my friend.

Video: Sending an SMS in 60 seconds with Java

Play Along At Home

To get going on your own you’ll need a few things.

If you need help setting things up I’ve got a great blog post for you.

Once you have the Twilio library downloaded, create a new file named HelloTwilio.java with the following code and plug in your credentials and phone numbers.

import com.twilio.sdk.TwilioRestClient;
import com.twilio.sdk.TwilioRestException;
import com.twilio.sdk.resource.factory.SmsFactory;
import com.twilio.sdk.resource.instance.Account;

import java.util.HashMap;

public class HelloTwilio {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws TwilioRestException {
        TwilioRestClient client = new TwilioRestClient("YOUR_TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID", "YOUR_TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN");

        Account account = client.getAccount();

        SmsFactory factory = account.getSmsFactory();

        HashMap<String, String> message = new HashMap<>();

        message.put("To", "YOUR_PHONE_NUMBER");
        message.put("From", "YOUR_TWILIO_PHONE_NUMBER");
        message.put("Body", "Ahoy from Twilio!");

        factory.create(message);
    }
}

And just like that you are sending caffeinated text messages!

What’s Next?

We can’t wait to see what you build with a fresh cup of one of our favorite programming languages.

Head on over to the new Tutorials by Twilio for some inspiration and guidance. I dig the Automated Survey one that’s built with the Spark Framework.

Let me know on Twitter or in the comments where you go from here.

0 to 60 with Java – Sending an SMS in a Minute

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April 27, 2016

Node.js version 6.0.0 shipped yesterday and brings with it a ton of stellar ECMAScript 2015 features. Here are three that will make your life easier and are worth getting excited about.

Function Defaults

How many times have you written boilerplate code that looks something like this:

function beginTeleportation (who, options) {
  options = options || {}
}

Well the days of checking for the existence of function arguments are over. Default function parameters let you define a default value for function arguments right in the function declaration.

function beginTeleportation (who, options = {}) {

}

In this example if options isn’t passed in it will be assigned to a new object.

This is works great for other parameters and values as well.

function sayCosmicGreeting (greeting = 'Greetings', name = 'Earthling') {
  console.log(`${greeting}, ${name}`)
}

sayCosmicGreeting() // Greetings, Earthling
sayCosmicGreeting('Salutations', 'Martian') // Salutations, Martian

Rest Parameters

Passing a variable number of arguments into a function has in the past required you to use the arguments keyword.

function sayCosmicGreetingTo (greeting) {
  const beings = arguments.slice(1)
  beings.forEach(being => {
    console.log(`${greeting}, ${being}`)
  })
}

sayCosmicGreetingTo('Hello', 'Earthling', 'Martian', 'Neptunian')

The problem, as shown by this example, is it is easy to run into a TypeError: arguments.slice is not a function error because arguments isn’t an actual Array, but array-like. To make this work you have to know to use the call function on the Array’s prototype:

Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments, 1)

But this can be pretty obscure for beginners. It’s also very unclear that any other arguments are being passed into the function.

Rest parameters fix this by giving you an actual instance of Array.

function sayCosmicGreetingTo (greeting, ...beings) {
  beings.forEach(being => {
    console.log(`${greeting}, ${being}`)
  })
}

sayCosmicGreetingTo('Hello', 'Earthling', 'Martian', 'Neptunian')

Destructuring

A common pattern in JavaScript is for a function to take in an object for easy configuration options. Before, those options had to manually be pulled out of the object and assigned to variables.

function beginDepartureSequence (options) {
  const captain = options.captain
  const ship = options.ship
  const destination = options.destination
  console.log(`Blast off sequence initiated for Captain ${captain} on ship ${ship} flying to ${destination}`)
}

beginDepartureSequence({
  captain: 'Rey',
  ship: 'Millennium Falcon',
  destination: 'Jakku'
})

Now with Node 6 we can destructure that object right into variables where order doesn’t matter.

function beginDepartureSequence (options) {
  const { destination, captain, ship } = options
  console.log(`Blast off sequence initiated for Captain ${captain} on ship ${ship} flying to ${destination}`)
}

beginDepartureSequence({
  captain: 'Rey',
  ship: 'Millennium Falcon',
  destination: 'Jakku'
})

Even better we can do it right in the function definition. This allows you to be as declarative as named parameters but with an object.

function beginDepartureSequence ({ destination, ship, captain }) {
  console.log(`Blast off sequence initiated for Captain ${captain} on ship ${ship} flying to ${destination}`)
}

beginDepartureSequence({
  captain: 'Rey',
  ship: 'Millennium Falcon',
  destination: 'Jakku'
})

Wrapping it Up

While none of these are completely game changing they make our lives better as developers by allowing us to write clearer and less code.

These aren’t the only features that shipped with this release. Check out these great resources to learn more.

Try them out and let me know which your favorites are.

If you like JavaScript, join us May 24th and 25th for some awesome talks at SIGNAL by Kassandra Perch, Katy Moe, and many more. You’ll also get the opportunity to launch yourself into space at our insane carnival for coders, $bash. Use promo code ezaneski20 for 20% off your ticket.

Three Out Of This World Node 6 Features You Need to Know About

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When Tiffani Bell put her number on Human Utility’s website (formerly known as The Detroit Water Project), she received calls at 5am PST almost every morning from Detroit residents wanting an answer about their water bills.
 
There’s no easy way to explain how thousands of Detroit residents ended up without sustainable access to water. When you start talking about the economy, infrastructure and climate change the focus gets lost. Tiffani wants to help people. But helping people at scale requires more than one person and more than one number.
 

Human Utility, And A Water Problem In Detroit

Human Utility (H.U) crowd funds to help underserved communities in Detroit and elsewhere, who can’t pay their bills. Human Utility users frequently check the status of their applications and their bill. By the nature of the Human Utility’s work, if they’re getting contacted it’s almost always an emergency. If you don’t have water, you don’t have time to wait for water.
 
The people H.U serves are typically lower-income and don’t have reliable access to an internet, or a smartphone. When Tiffani was searching for a reliable, immediate, and scalable way H.U users could reach out- she was at a loss.
 
She tried a Google Voice number. That didn’t scale with their call volume. She tried hiring a call center, but the agents didn’t have context around the issues their users face. They also spent too much time manually authenticating users, and looking application details. This is about where Tiffani put her number on the Human Utility website.
 


 
She credits this move to what she calls “the tedium of helping people.” There’s software designed for sales organizations, marketing organizations, enterprises, you name it. But SaaS companies aren’t targeting non-profit’s needs. As a former Code For America fellow, Tiffani knew she’d have to build something herself so she chose Twilio.
 
Now, when a H.U user calls in to check on their application, they’re authenticated via their phone number. They can check their application status and benefits through a programmable IVR. There’s no wait, and far less worry.
 
“With Twilio- people will call and they’ll have information ready for them,” says Tiffani. “The goal for us is to make it more efficient to get assistance and make it easier for use to help people.”
 
Simplicity is key for H.U. They only have one number and thousands of users. Using the H.U customer’s phone numbers as a means of authentication, they save the risk of customers not knowing which number to call and centralize all their communication.
 
Detroit isn’t out of the woods by any means, but Human Utility’s work is inspiring similar efforts in Baltimore and other cities. Tiffani and the team are currently working with Philadelphia as well to give access to residents who are struggling to pay their water bills.
 
With each call, the Human Utility strikes a blow against the historical “tedium” of helping people and gets someone closer to what they need – water.
 
Human Utility is powered by Twilio.org. Learn more here

Coding The Way To A Human Right: Human Utility Gives Underserved Communities Access To Water

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Today, we are excited to announce beta access to the Twilio Console, an all-new account portal. The Console is a complete visual and functional update providing easier access to manage your account as well as debug and operate your Twilio-based applications.

Back in the day

When Twilio began we had one API: Voice. In 2008, for the first time ever, developers could add phone calls to any application with a few lines of code.

Then we added SMS. In these days our developer portal was simple. The Twilio API was one unified product. You could log in and within a few clicks you could manage your voice and SMS configuration easily.

Then we added MMS, Client, Shortcodes, API Explorer, SIP interfaces, SIP Trunking, TaskRouter, Network Traversal, Audit Events, CoPilot, API Keys, LookUp, Authy, Video, IP Messaging, and the list keeps growing…

The menu in our account portal went from looking like this…

header-1

to this…

header-2

to this…

header-3

As Twilio evolved from a phone calls & SMS API into a full suite of communications tools we needed a way to handle the additional complexity. Our original portal wasn’t designed to accommodate this breadth of functionality.

It was time to re-engineer.

Usability testing

When we started our redesign, we wanted to keep things simple and easy-to-understand while we added more features. To make sure our design updates were on track with this goal, we conducted several months of usability testing.

Each month we hosted multiple moderated 1-on-1 sessions. Both new and existing Twilio users were invited to test early versions of the Console. We recorded their screen, along with a video of their face as they were asked to perform various tasks.

Yeah, it’s a little strange to watch someone’s face as they test out your product, but a wrinkled brow or the hint of a smile tells you instantly what works and what doesn’t. We took this qualitative feedback very seriously as we iterated the design and moved towards a more friendly UX.

A sincere thanks goes out to everyone who helped us revise early versions of the Console to get to the experience we have today.

Hot and fresh out the kitchen

Here are just a few of the many updates and improvements.

When logged in, users now land in the Console Dashboard. The dashboard surfaces quick and contextual information, like the products you’ve recently used, as well as links out to the rest of the Console.

console-dashboard

The new left-side dock provides quick access to the products you use the most. Click on the all products icon to get the main menu.

left-side-dock

You can pin and unpin products from the dock.

pin-to-doc

The Developer Center is a new section that now includes tools to help you build and debug your apps. Here you’ll find familiar developer tools like Alerts and API Keys as well as brand new functionality like native TwiML Bins.

devloper-center

Every page has a responsive design so you can view the Console at various resolutions. It now fits nicely side-by-side next to your favorite editor.

responsive-design

For a full list of improvements log in to the Console and check out the what’s new page.

How do I get it?

If you are a new Twilio user who just signed up today, then you’ll get the new Console experience by default. If you are an existing user and you’d like to try the new Console, click on Products > Try New Console in the portal’s main menu:

try-beta-console

For a the next few weeks you’ll be able to freely switch back and forth between using the beta version of the Console and the existing account portal. Keep in mind that new products and features will only be added to the new Console as we move forward. To go back to the previous account portal, hover over the beta tag and click on Exit Beta in the top menu.

exit-beta

We’d love your feedback

The new Console experience has gone through extensive beta testing including many hours of screen recording and usability testing. If you find additional improvements we can make, please click on Give Feedback in the top menu.

give-feedback

We’re super excited to offer this new and improved experience. Today’s announcement is just the start of many updates we have cooking. Be sure to come to Signal, The Developer Conference for Communications to meet the Twilio UX team and see everything we are launching.

To get started exploring all of the new features and functionality log in to the new Console.

Introducing the New Twilio Console

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April 26, 2016

You’re building a .NET app and you need to send SMS messages. What if I told you you can get it done in 30 seconds with the Twilio API? Here’s a video showing you how quick it is to send an SMS message with C# and the Twilio API.

Video: How To Send SMS with C# in 30 Seconds

But you can’t copy and paste from a video, so here’s all the code you will need.

Install the Twilio helper library for .NET to your project using the package manager console.

PM> Install-Package Twilio

Import the Twilio namespace into your class and create a new instance of the Twilio REST Client passing your account sid and auth token, which are available on the Twilio account portal.

using System;
using Twilio;

namespace twilio_sms
{
        class Program
        {
            static void Main(string[] args)
            {
                var client = new TwilioRestClient(Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID"), Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN"));
            }
        }
}

You will need three things now:

  • The Twilio number you are sending the message from
  • The number you are sending the message to
  • The body of the message

Add those into the SendMessage method which is available from the client instance you just created.

client.SendMessage("YOUR_TWILIO_NUMBER", "YOUR_NUMBER", "Ahoy from Twilio!");

Now run it and wait for the magic to happen.

We can’t wait to see what you build

You’ve sent an SMS message and now you’re ready to take on the world of communications. Take a look at the Twilio REST API documentation to see what else you can do and the documentation for working with the .NET helper library. Then check out our tutorials to see some more examples, like: sending SMS notifications, masking phone numbers for user privacy or two factor authentication for user security.

Excited about the possibilities? Then let me know! Hit me up on Twitter or just give me a shout in the comments below.

[a]This will be the real deal

Send an SMS Message with C# in 30 Seconds

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You don’t need to climb a phone tree to get a response from a company. You can SMS your way straight to an answer. But what does that company do with a flooded SMS inbox? Build a Slackbot, duh.

The developers behind Network Effects, Justin Jackson and Marty Dill thought that answer was obvious. “GETTING TEXT MESSAGES IN SLACK IS MAGICAL,” says Justin (in all caps).

They built a Slackbot using Twilio that allows a user to text a company’s Twilio powered number. That text will populate in a Slack channel. The company can then /sms reply straight to the user’s phone. Behold the contextual goodness of Slack paired with the ease of SMS in a GIF.
 
demo-net
 
Justin uses his own hack to talk with fans of his podcast, MegaMaker, a show that profiles the DIY creative community and makers of all sorts. “It’s so nice to just have texts pop into my chat window occasionally, and to be able to reply right there is amazing. Without leaving Slack I can interact with someone over SMS. It’s actually really helpful,” says Justin.
 

If you’re Slackbot appetite is not quenched by Justin and Marty’s hack, there’s another helping coming your way. We’re hosting a sub-conference within SIGNAL dubbed /bots which focuses on all things bots. Command line bots, slackbots, chatbots – you name it. Grab your tickets here.
 
Learn more about Justin and Marty’s company Network Effects here.

TextMeSlacker: Replying To Texts In Slack with Slackbots and Twilio

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The Costa Group, an Italian cruise company, will pilot the voice-enabled “Pepper” robots on board two of its cruise ships this spring with the goal of expanding the rollout to all 25 ships in its fleet later this year. The Pepper robots, which are manufactured by French company Aldebaran and Japan’s Softbank, first launched in […]

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“Hey! This is the greatest event of my life!”.

We were at the first public edition of jacobsHack!, a hackathon I co-founded, and the feedback came from one of the attendees who had just started as a freshman at Jacobs University in Germany. Hearing this from a freshman after months of hard work and being completely sleep deprived was the most rewarding feedback I could ever expect. But let me give you a quick recap of how I ended up in that moment.

From design to hacking

Being fascinated by computers and technology my whole life, I knew I wanted to study something with technology.  This led me to study Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Jacobs where I got introduced to their CS club. One of their first meetings I attended was an introduction to JavaScript workshop.

Coming from a design background, learning to code was addictive as it gave me a way to quickly visualize my design ideas.

At the beginning of my second year of college, my friend who led the Intro to JavaScript workshop and I decided to attend our first hackathon at the Facebook World Hack tour in Berlin where we developed a web app called “Social Roadtrip”. The amazing atmosphere of a huge group of developers fully focused on building amazing hacks and learning from each other fascinated me and I immediately got addicted to hackathons.

In 2013, it was still hard for students to find hackathons in Europe and while I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to at least a couple of them, a lot of my peers weren’t able to. Together with a few of my friends we decided to start a hackathon at Jacobs to introduce others to the world of hackathons.

The first edition took place in one of our dorms with the goal of inspiring Jacobs students to work on cool projects outside the classroom. Just eight months later I found myself at what was the first public edition of jacobsHack! and where I started my path of where I would see myself in the developer world.

Student turns into a teacher

Starting jacobsHack! was hugely rewarding. It was amazing to see what the attendees could learn and build when they gather together as a community at  jacobsHack!. The thrill from when I wrote my first lines of code came back every time a participant’s face lit up in the moment their hack worked. Once I graduated from university I wanted to find ways to continue to create those moments for developers.

Having gained a lot of my skills from being taught in person by fellow developers rather than alone in my room browsing the web, I wanted to give back by helping other developers and those who wanted to become one.

After holding workshops in the CS club I got the opportunity to teach  coding workshops for kids at HackerSchool in Germany and the local CoderDojo in Dublin.

The fascination of the kids for programming grew with every line of code they wrote to turn the blank canvas into a Snake game. Simply showing some cool CSS tricks led to more rotating YouTube videos, images and paragraphs on their websites than you will probably ever see out in the wild, but the excitement in the room was incredible.

Over time, I realized that while I love writing code, inspiring people into coding and teaching them cool new things you can do with technology gives me incredible joy and that I did not want to do this only in my free time but turn it into my profession.

sed -e ‘s/Software Engineer/Developer Evangelist/g’ jobinfo.txt

Hi, my name is Dominik Kundel. I’m super excited to be the latest addition to the Developer Evangelism team for Twilio in Berlin, Germany.

I’m looking forward to meeting you all at meetups, conferences and hackathons in Berlin and all over Europe to hear how you got inspired to code and hopefully inspire you to build awesome new things!
In the meantime feel free to reach out to me:

Introducing Twilio Developer Evangelist Dominik Kundel

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“Hey! This is the greatest event of my life!”

Dieser Satz kam als Feedback von einem Studienanfänger der Jacobs University Bremen und Teilnehmer der ersten öffentlichen Auflage von jacobsHack!, einem Hackathon den ich mitgegründet habe. Es war das beste Feedback, das ich mir, nach Monaten harter Arbeit und Schlafmangel, vorstellen konnte. Aber lasst mich euch kurz erklären, wie es dazu gekommen ist.

Von Design zum Hacken.

Seit ich im Alter von 6 das erste Mal mit Computern in Berührung gekommen bin, war ich fasziniert von jeglicher Art von Technologie. Als es also darum ging mein Studium zu beginnen, wusste ich, dass ich etwas mit Technologie studieren will. Dies führte dazu, dass ich Elektrotechnik und Informatik an der Jacobs University zu studieren begann. In meinem ersten Jahr wurde mir dort der Computer Science Club vorgestellt, ein wöchentliches Treffen von Informatik-interessierten Studierende. Eines der ersten Treffen an dem ich teilnahm, war ein Einführungsworkshop für JavaScript.

Da ich vorher hauptsächlich einen Designhintergrund hatte, war ich sofort fasziniert von Webentwicklung da dieses mir die Möglichkeit gab, meine Ideen schnell zu visualisieren.

Am Anfang meines zweiten Studienjahres beschlossen der Freund, der damals den JavaScript Workshop gehalten hatte, und ich an unserem ersten Hackathon bei der Facebook World Hack Tour in Berlin teilzunehmen. Inspiriert von unserer langen Anreise entwickelten wir dort eine Webanwendung für „social Travel“ mit dem Namen „Social Roadtrip”. Es ist eine faszinierende Atmosphäre, die durch eine große Gruppe von Entwickler_innen geschaffen wird, die Erfahrungen austauschen und konzentriert an erstaunlichen Hacks arbeiten. Ich wusste sofort, dass ich zu mehr Hackathons gehen musste.

2013 war es immer noch schwer für Studierende Hackathons in Europa zu finden. Und obwohl ich glücklicherweise zumindest zu einigen europäischen Hackathons reisen konnte, waren viele meiner Kommiliton_innen nicht in der Lage dazu. Deshalb beschlossen ein paar meiner Freunde und ich, dass wir unseren eigenen Hackathon an der Jacobs University gründen wollten, mit dem Ziel unseren Kommiliton_innen Hackathons näherzubringen.

Die erste Auflage fand in einem unserer Wohngebäude auf dem Uni Campus statt und hatte das Ziel, andere Jacobs Studierende zu inspirieren auch außerhalb der Kurse an coolen Projekten zu arbeiten. Nur acht Monate später organisierte ich dann die erste öffentliche Ausgabe von jacobsHack! – und begann unbewusst meinen Weg zu Twilio.

Der Schüler wird zum Lehrer.

jacobsHack! zu gründen war eine unglaublich bereichernde Erfahrung für mich. Es war unbeschreiblich zu sehen was die Anwesenden lernen und bauen können, wenn sie sich in einer Gemeinschaft wie bei jacobsHack! treffen. Der Moment, in dem ich die Gesichter der Teilnehmer_innen beim Programmieren aufleuchten sah, sorgte für die gleiche Begeisterung in mir, die ich beim Schreiben meiner ersten Zeilen Code hatte. Nach meinem Studium wusste ich, dass ich weiterhin Wege finden wollte, diese Momente für Entwickler_innen zu schaffen.

Vieles, was ich über das Programmieren weiß, habe ich von anderen Entwickler_innen gelernt, statt alleine in meinem Zimmer zu lernen. Deshalb beschloss ich etwas zurückzugeben, indem ich anderen Entwickler_innen und solchen, die welche werden wollen, helfe.

Nachdem ich Workshops im Computer Science Club gegeben hatte, bekam ich die Möglichkeit Programmierworkshops für Kinder an der HackerSchool in Deutschland sowie einem örtlichen CoderDojo in Dublin, Irland zu halten.

Die Faszination der Kinder für das Programmieren wuchs mit jeder Zeile Code, die sie schrieben, während sie langsam eine leere Leinwand in ein kleines Snake Spiel verwandelten. Ein paar coole CSS Tricks brachte die Kinder dazu mehr rotierende YouTube Videos, Bildern und Paragrafen zu erstellen, als man jemals im Internet finden würde. Die Atmosphäre und Faszination im Raum waren für mich fesselnd.

Mit der Zeit realisierte ich, dass es mir neben dem Programmieren unglaubliche Freude bereitet, andere Menschen zum Programmieren zu inspirieren und ihnen coole Sachen beizubringen, die man mit Technologie erreichen kann. Deshalb beschloss ich mein Hobby zum Beruf zu machen.

sed -e ‘s/Software Engineer/Developer Evangelist/g’ jobinfo.txt

Hi, ich heiße Dominik Kundel und bin begeistert, das neueste Mitglied im Developer Evangelism Team von Twilio zu sein.

Ich arbeite von Berlin aus und freue mich darauf, euch bald auf Meetups, Konferenzen und Hackathons in Berlin und ganz Europa zu treffen. Besonders gespannt bin ich von euch zu hören, wie ihr zum Programmieren gekommen seid, und natürlich euch zu coolen neuen Projekten zu inspirieren.

In der Zwischenzeit könnt ihr mich gerne auf einem der folgenden Wege kontaktieren:

Vorstellung von Twilio Developer Evangelist Dominik Kundel

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April 22, 2016

This is post 9 of 9 in the series “TextAid Features”

Welcome to the ninth post in our in-depth series about the different features in TextAid.

This week, we’ll have a look at the folder feature in TextAid. Watch our quick video to get a feel for this tool.

Folders are a useful way to keep your documents organized.

To create a folder, click the library icon. Then click ‘Create folder’ in the upper right corner. Give your folder an appropriate name.

When you save a document, you select which folder you would like the document to be saved to.

The next time you want to open the document, it will be in the selected folder.

Get started with ReadSpeaker TextAid today!

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Twilio Radio is a podcast featuring interviews from a few of the 100 speakers presenting at SIGNAL, our developer conference for communications. You can find Twilio Radio in iTunes and other podcast directories or you can listen to the interviews below. And if you’d like to join us at SIGNAL, use the promocode RADIO for 20% off when you register.

Where do text messages come from?

Ben Stein, who runs the messaging team at Twilio, talks about:

  • Why SMS is such an effective communication medium for businesses
  • SMS open and response rates
  • The SMPP (SMS) protocol
  • Technical differences between SMS and MMS
  • Best practices for scaling a Twilio messaging app

What developers should know about job searching and negotiation

Patrick McKenzie, co-founder of StarFighters, talks about:

  • What’s broken about with the recruiting and interviewing process?
  • How should a developer start their job search?
  • How should a developer answer the question, “What’s your current salary?”
  • What are practical negotiating tactics once you have the offer?

Developer culture and project management

Karen Cohen-Zellner, platform manager at Wix, talks about:

  • How to build strong developer culture
  • How developers at Wix choose their technology stacks and process
  • How to provide teams at a large company with high degrees of autonomy

 

Twilio Radio – The Podcast by Twilio

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April 21, 2016

Omni-channel communications appeal to a lot of companies. And it makes sense that they do. Having that type of power at your disposal allows businesses to meet customers on their turf. While this means there are more channels to manage, when done right, the benefit is that omni-channel communications create a better customer experience. Omni-Channel vs. Multi-Channel Now omni-channel is... Read More

The post Just Say No to Resets: Seamless Customer Experience in Omni-Channel Communications appeared first on Plum Voice.

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You’re building a Django or Flask app and you need to send text messages. Did you know you could do it in only 44 seconds? Here’s a video to show you how quick it is to get started:

Video: How To Send a Text Message with Python in 44 Seconds


You can’t copy and paste code from a video, so maybe that’s not very helpful. Here’s all of the code you would need:

from twilio.rest import TwilioRestClient

client = TwilioRestClient()

client.messages.create(from_='YOUR_NUMBER',
                       to='YOUR_TWILIO_NUMBER',
                       body='Ahoy from Twilio!')

How do I run this?

If you want to run that code, open a file called send_sms.py and copy and paste that code into it. Don’t forget to replace the to and from_ phone numbers with their appropriate values.

Grab your Account SID and auth token from your Twilio account Console. Set these in your environment variables by entering this in your terminal:

export TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID='YOUR_ACCOUNT_SID'
export TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN='YOUR_AUTH_TOKEN'

Now enter this in your terminal to install the Twilio Python library and run your code (from the same directory the file is saved in):

pip install twilio
python send_sms.py

What just happened?

Let’s walk through the code in the video step by step.

First you import the Twilio Rest Client

from twilio.rest import TwilioRestClient

Instantiate a REST client using your account sid and auth token, available in your Twilio account Console:

client = TwilioRestClient('TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID', 'TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN')

In the video and earlier in the post, these are stored in environment variables.

You’ll now need three things:

  • The number you are sending the message to
  • The Twilio number you are sending the message from
  • The body of the message

With these you can now send a text message by calling client.sendMessage():

client.messages.create(from_='YOUR_NUMBER',
                       to='YOUR_TWILIO_NUMBER',
                       body='Ahoy from Twilio!')

Now just wait for the magic to happen!

We can’t wait to see what you build

You’ve sent a text message and now you’re ready to take on the world. Check out the Twilio REST API documentation and the documentation for working with the Python helper library to see what else you can do.

You can also take a look at our tutorials to see more examples such as: sending SMS notifications, masking phone numbers for user privacy or two factor authentication for user security.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you will build. Feel free to reach out and share your experiences or ask any questions.

How to Send a Text Message with Python

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April 20, 2016

SIGNAL is Twilio’s developer conference for communications and a conversation about communications in 2016 would be incomplete if it didn’t include bots. We’re hosting /bots at SIGNAL, a “sub-conference” where everyone at the forefront of the bots movement will come together to talk about the future of messaging. We’d love to have you there May 24th and 25th at SIGNAL.

/bots will feature speakers from development teams at Slack, IBM Watson, Facebook M, Microsoft’s Bot Framework and more. We’ll answer the tough questions like – “are you engineering R2-D2 or Skynet when you build a Slackbot with Twilio?” “How many weird questions can IBM Watson actually answer?” and “Okay, what’s the best way to build an intelligent bot and deploy it across a bunch of different platforms?”

We’ll let Jeff give his two cents on those questions.

Here’s a few of the sessions you’ll find at /bots:

Building Good Slack Bots and Custom Integrations
Allison Craig, from Slack

Getting Started with the Microsoft Bot Framework
Lili Cheng and Dan Driscoll from Microsoft Research

Building Cognitive Apps with IBM Watson
James Thomas from IBM Bluemix

Over the next two weeks we’ll announce more speakers coming to /bots. Grab your tickets right here, and stay tuned to the blog for more announcements. We’ll see you (and your bots) at SIGNAL!

Introducing /bots: The day bots ate SIGNAL

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Twilio Video simplifies building multi-person video chat applications and minimizes complicated WebRTC boilerplate. However having access to the underlying WebRTC objects can be advantageous and is sometimes necessary.

The RTCPeerConnection is the main object behind a Twilio Video conversation, which you can access and use in just a couple of lines of code.

Setting up a Twilio Video application

If you already have a Twilio Video application built, these two lines will get a reference to a PeerConnection for the existing conversation.

var dialog = conversation._dialogs.values().next().value;
var peerConnection = dialog.session.mediaHandler.peerConnection;

Skip ahead to see what you can do with this peerConnection object.

If you don’t have a video  application you will need one to follow along. You can follow this post as a guide to setting up a basic one. In order to run this code you’ll need to create a free Twilio account. Let’s set that application up and get a Video chat going before we grab the PeerConnection.

You can follow through that blog post or you can grab the code from this repository. Open your terminal, navigate to the directory you want this project to live in and run this command:

git clone git@github.com:sagnew/TwilioVideoExample.git

You’ll see that there are two HTML pages, local.html for the local participant in the conversation and remote.html for the remote participant. These both share one JavaScript file inviteAccepted.js and have their own individual JavaScript as well: local.js and remote.js respectively.

Generating access tokens and starting a conversation

We need two access tokens to use the client side code. You’d normally have a web server create these for you programmatically, but for the sake of this tutorial we will use the dev tools on your Twilio Dashboard. Keep in mind that these tokens will expire after one hour.

You can use any identity you want. I’ll go with “localSam” for the first one and “remoteSam” for the second one. You’ll also want to replace the identity on line 5 of remote.js with whatever identity you used to generate the first token.

LocalRemoteAccessToken.gif

Copy and paste these access tokens into local.js and remote.js as seen in the GIF above.

Load these pages in a browser using your favorite local web server. I use an npm module called ws, but if you have Python installed you can also just run this command from the directory your code is in:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer

Visit localhost:8000, open local.html with your web browser and then open remote.html in a different browser window. Once remote.html is loaded, the JavaScript code will invite the other client to a conversation. As seen in the GIF below, you can see yourself twice on each page.
LocalRemoteConversation.gif

Now we’re ready to move onto using the PeerConnection associated with this conversation.

Using a PeerConnection from a Twilio Video Conversation

With a peer connection we can grab the media streams from our Twilio Video Conversation. Let’s get the local audio stream and do something with it when the conversation starts.

While there is a convenience method for muting audio tracks in a Twilio Video Conversation, we’ll use this scenario to show how to access the PeerConnection and mute the track directly.

Open up inviteAccepted.js and add this code to your conversationStarted function:

    var dialog = conversation._dialogs.values().next().value;
    var peerConnection = dialog.session.mediaHandler.peerConnection;

    // Mute the local media's audio.
    var localMediaStream = peerConnection.getLocalStreams()[0];
    localMediaStream.getAudioTracks()[0].enabled = false;

Navigate to both of your HTML files in the browser again making sure your microphone and sound are on. When the conversation starts you should hear…nothing because we muted both sides!

Both pages are using the same JavaScript which mutes their own media. We only needed to access the local media streams in order to do this.

What we’re doing here is grabbing an audio track from the local media stream and setting enabled = false which disables the track.

Continuing with Twilio Video and WebRTC

Check out the documentation on media tracks in the Twilio Video API to see what else you can do. Play around on your own and see what you can do with and without access to the WebRTC PeerConnection object.

The fact that using Twilio Video means that you don’t need to write your own WebRTC code makes me really excited. Still, it’s nice to be able to dig under the hood when you need to. For example, you may want to get statistics on your Video conversation using the WebRTC stats API.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments or just want to show off what kind of cool stuff you’ve built.

How to use a WebRTC PeerConnection in a Twilio Video Conversation

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Jason Strauss’ debugging took a week. His input was familiar — code. The output was uncharted analog territory – a postcard. Unlike your 500 error, a postcard takes a week to get back to you. Jason was debugging in week-long chunks.

After a few weekends of work, discovering the perfect NLP library for him, and gluing together three APIs, The Simple Postcard was born. Send a photo you want made into a postcard, enter an address, and pay all via text.

It’s all text-based So don’t ask Jason if he’ll build an app. He’ll answer your question with another, “Why should people have to install something?”

Home Is Where Your Localhost Is, Or Wherever You Can Send Postcards

When Jason and his girlfriend were long distance they sent letters to each other. Having a tactile message as opposed to a digital one was alluring. But, the “user interface” for sending letters, The United States Postal Service, does not offer the most enjoyable experience.

The Simple Postcard was a product of equal parts intrigue and necessity. In building the service, Jason learned how to use a few new tools. The stack behind The Simple Postcard is Django, PostgreSQL, VQL, Lob, Stripe, Twilio, USAddress, and Bootstrap.

Unraveling Strings

A key component of The Simple Postcard’s stack is a Python library called US Address Parser that uses NLP to convert the raw address strings to the components of the address. This separates a block of text into city, street, zipcode etc. Then Jason’s app passes that info to Lob, a print API, who takes care of the postcard manufacturing. The app uses the Twilio MMS API to store and pass that image that’s printed on the card.

Here’s the code that TSP executes when someone sends in a photo to start a new postcard.

# Sample code from TheSimplePostcard.com
# TechStack: Django, PostgreSQL, VQL, Twilio, Lob, Stripe, Bootstrap, usaddress

# If theres an image, then start a new postcard
if num_media > 0:
  img = params.get("MediaUrl"+str(int(num_media)-1)) # get the last picture

  new_postcard = Postcard(
    from_number = from_number,
    raw_img_src = img,
    postcard_status = 'image_added'
  )
  new_postcard.save()

  # and ask them for the address
  response_text = 'Got it! Who would you like to send that to, name and address? (eg. %s)' % RandomSampleAddress()
  return RespondToText(response_text)

And when Jason is feeling gracious, this is the code he uses to send a random card for free.

# Sample code from TheSimplePostcard.com
# TechStack: Django, PostgreSQL, VQL, Twilio, Lob, Stripe, Bootstrap, usaddress

# Occasionally, we choose to ship a card for free
import datetime, random
def FreeCard():
  die_1 = random.randint(1, 6)
  die_2 = random.randint(1, 6)
  current_month = datetime.datetime.now().month
  return (die_1 + die_2) == current_month

 

Getting A Reply

Jason’s already gotten some great feedback after hitting the top spot on HackerNews this week. “TSP received really great feedback on HN. I’ve also received really nice feedback from mothers and girlfriends, like ‘literally made my whole day,’ which I rarely hear about my code.”

So now when the postcard you made, ordered, and paid for via text arrives at your door, you might think a week turnaround time is pretty fast after all.

Check out Jason’s full-time project GetVQL, right here. Grab his code on GitHub here

Engineering The Simple Postcard

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April 19, 2016

Many thanks to James Jelinek (@shakycode) for this guest post and video tutorial on how to receive and reply to text messages with Rails.


I’ve been working with Rails (and Twilio) for several years now and I love it. Twilio makes SMS, MMS, and Voice so easy to use. Even with the ease of use there is still somewhat of a learning curve as it pertains to integrating Twilio into your Ruby on Rails app. Today we’re going to cover a simple integration of Twilio into a new Ruby on Rails application that handles inbound and outbound messages. The first thing we need to do is to create a new Rails app.

rails new sms

This will generate our app simply called, “SMS”. Now we need to generate a basic controller to act as our endpoint for Twilio’s inbound requests.

rails g controller messages reply

When we create the controller we add a default method/action of

reply
  which will serve as our endpoint. The next step is to add the
twilio-ruby
  gem to our
Gemfile
 .

gem 'twilio-ruby`

Now we need to bundle it into our app by running the following:

bundle install

Still with me? We are not far off! Now we need to configure the endpoint in

config/routes.rb

resource :messages do
  collection do
    post 'reply'
  end
end

It should be noted that we can actually eliminate the resource block and simply use a post or match line in the

config/routes.rb
 file, however, I anticipated the possible need of future functionality in the
messages
 controller so I kept it as it. This will create a route that looks like
http://localhost:3000/messages/reply
 which acts as the endpoint for Twilio to communicate with our Rails app. Now we need to setup our Twilio credentials and phone number in
config/secrets.yml
 .

twilio_sid: 'XXXXXXXXX'
twilio_token: 'XXXXXXXXXXXXX'
twilio_number: '+12125551212'

This will allow us to use the SID, auth token, and number later on in our controller. For security purposes, make sure that this file is not committed to version control / git. Now it’s time to get to the

messages_controller
 and make this work.

To avoid CSRF errors and exceptions, we need to skip the verification of the authenticity token. If you are using Devise for authentication, you will want to also skip the

authenticate_user!
. This will allow Devise authentication inheritance but also allows calls to our
reply
 method without passing credentials in the URL.

class MessagesController < ApplicationController 
 skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token
 #skip_before_filter :authenticate_user!, :only => "reply"

  def reply
    message_body = params["Body"]
    from_number = params["From"]
    boot_twilio
    sms = @client.messages.create(
      from: Rails.application.secrets.twilio_number,
      to: from_number,
      body: "Hello there, thanks for texting me. Your number is #{from_number}."
    )
    
  end

  private

  def boot_twilio
    account_sid = Rails.application.secrets.twilio_sid
    auth_token = Rails.application.secrets.twilio_token
    @client = Twilio::REST::Client.new account_sid, auth_token
  end
end

In our

reply
 method which acts as the endpoint we need someway to grab the params that come in from Twilio’s request. So we instantiate
message_body
 and
from_number
 for further processing. We’ve created a private method called
boot_twilio
  which instantiates the Twilio client in preparation to send out a SMS message back to the user. In the
reply
  method/action you’ll notice that after we
boot_twilio
 we create a message that simply responds to the inbound phone number/request made by the end-user.For fun, we string interpolate
from_number
 which sends back a simple message with the user’s phone number.

Twilio expects an HTTP response to its request, so we’ll render a snippet of XML with an empty

<Response>
. (Note from Greg: If all you wanted to do was reply to text messages, you could simply include the TwiML
<Message>
  tag in this XML response. But I dig James’ solution here because you can reuse his code to initiate text messages as well. There’s no one right way to do this.) 

Now this will not work without first setting up a publicly accessible webhook from Twilio back to the app. We need a way in our development environment to route traffic from the big scary Internet back to our private IP, because hey… none of us live in a datacenter. :)

To do this, we download ngrok and install/save the binary to our machine. To start ngrok you’ll need to type:

./ngrok http 3000

This will generate a status screen and give us a url such as:

http://08121ed87.ngrok.io
 . This is where the magic happens. Login to Twilio and go to Phone Numbers. Click on your phone number, then scroll down to the Messaging section and configure the Messaging Request URL with this:

http://yourngrokid.ngrok.io/messages/reply

Make sure the request type is set to HTTP POST and click save. Twilio is now properly configured.

Now that we have our controller/endpoint and Twilio configured it’s time to test. Start your Rails server:

rails s

Send a text message to your Twilio phone number. Within a second or so you should see a response: “Hello there, thanks for texting me. Your number is +18323334444.”

If you receive this message, then pat yourself on the back. You now officially have Twilio integrated into Rails and are handling and replying to inbound messages. It should be noted that this is a very simple implementation intended to give you an idea on how to do a basic integration. Feel free to move the majority of the code out of the controller and into a class to follow Rails best practices.

Happy Coding! Now you know how to receive and reply to an SMS in Rails!

-James Jelinek (shakycode)


Thanks James! If you’d like to learn more about SMS and Rails, check out:

How to Receive and Reply to an SMS in Rails with Twilio

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To put it simply, deep learning is a type of machine learning algorithm that mimics the neurons and synapses found in the human brain. It allows for the modeling of complex data patterns in multilayered networks that continuously self-improve. Deep learning was first developed in the 1950s during psychologist Frank Rosenblatt’s quest to create a mechanical brain. Rosenblatt’s machine, the Perceptron, delighted many as it accurately identified shapes without human assistance. However, the public fanfare soon died down as critics pointed out the system’s limits. While deep learning has only recently resurfaced to the public’s interest, technology has enabled deep learning to evolve significantly over the past 60 years.

In 2012, deep learning made front page news through a New York Times article that claimed it would enable machines to “perform human activities like seeing, listening, and thinking.”  It’s clear that we’re shifting away from the classic approach to programming, which consists of coding machines with a set of rules. Coupled with the big data revolution, deep learning is certain to increase the accuracy of machines in many industries, from manufacturing to health care. And when it comes to people’s excitement about deep learning, “putting your money where your mouth is” couldn’t be truer. In 2015 alone, there were about 300 VC deals totaling $2.8 billion into artificial intelligence companies.

But for the average American, how much does deep learning impact our everyday lives? Apparently, a lot! Here are five ways that you’re already tapping into deep learning-fueled technology:

1. Language translation

Google’s language translation program uses deep learning to analyze various “soft boundaries and ambiguities” of language for more accurate and grammatically correct sentences.

2. Anti-fraud technology

Raise your hand if you’ve been a victim of identity theft! If so, you know that it’s not such a fun experience. Fortunately, electronic payment systems are now using deep learning to strengthen their ability to pinpoint suspicious transactions quickly.

3. Digital assistants

Most digital assistants, including the “beloved” Siri, use voice recognition based on deep learning. Apple purchased a natural language tech company called VocalIQ in 2015, with plans to make customers’ conversations with Siri more nuanced and natural. We identify IVA® most closely with this type of technology; in fact, IVA® already uses natural language and communicates with customers in the way that Apple is striving to achieve.

4. Photo tagging

Deep learning enables Facebook’s ability to suggest tags on photos based on people’s faces. Their facial recognition project, Deepface, has a 97.25% accuracy in telling whether two photos have the same face.

5. Speech-to-text

Have you ever dictated text using speech recognition on your phone? If so, you’re using transcription technology powered by Deep Neural Networks (DNN)! Language modeling facilitates the recognition of individual sounds, and the matching of these sounds to existing words.

In the customer service industry, we’ve tapped into the power of deep learning to anticipate customers’ needs based on past communications. For example, if a certain type of customer or phrase is linked to checking order status, a deep learning software module will shift its top menu so that the order status option is presented first to certain customer profiles. In effect, customer service technologies will eventually process customers’ inputs much like a human – and probably better – leading to a more streamlined and specific process for each customer need. In the long run, our machines will train themselves to take a proactive approach to customer service, and prevent customers from being confused or frustrated with self-service in the first place.

Of course, deep learning is nowhere near 100% accuracy. Once in a while, Facebook suggests tagging you as your mom, or Siri fails to comprehend even your best enunciation. And like we mentioned above, this is why an increasing number of companies are committing to furthering the integration of artificial intelligence into their services. In fact, the recently released Artificial Intelligence Global Forecast report forecasts that the artificial intelligence and machine learning market will grow more than 50% by 2020, to a staggering $5.05 billion. There’s no limit to the exciting changes ahead, but for now, sit back and enjoy the deep learning renaissance.

 

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/513696/deep-learning/

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/544606/can-this-man-make-aimore-human/

http://www.fastcompany.com/3026423/why-google-is-investing-in-deep-learning

http://venturebeat.com/2015/10/02/apple-acquires-deep-learning-startup-vocaliq-to-make-siri-smarter/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtmarko/2015/04/08/big-data-machine-learning_customer-experience/3/#5f83c3f0222d

http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-neural-networks-behind-google-voice.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pradeep-aradhya/artificial-intelligence-d_b_9698204.html

 

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April 18, 2016

Marketplaces are growing exponentially and popping up online in every sector. When you go to work, you share a Lyft or Uber. If you need a window replaced, you might call a Taskrabbit. If you want to book a spot to stay for your vacation, you’ll book an Airbnb.
 
We’re hosting a panel discussion at our HQ on April 26th with Airbnb, Instacart, Checkr, and Stripe to explore how different technology platforms enable the most successful on-demand services. Register here.
 
headshots
Industry expert, Chelsea Rustrum will be moderating the panel. She is the author of It’s a Shareable Life and founder of Sharers Talks and will help us dive into the elements that drive the growth of the sharing economy marketplaces.
 
Rustrum
I had a chance to sit down with Chelsea and pick her brain on the sharing economy in preparation for the meetup.
 

Is it correct to say that the “Sharing Economy” has become conflated with the “On-Demand Economy” term, which has a much broader scope. What have you seen as the evolution of the sharing economy and how has this model evolved year over year?

 
Yes, this is correct.

In 2011-2012, the sharing economy was just beginning. Most people still thought the idea of sharing their homes or cars was a bit crazy, but Airbnb and GetAround already had traction. At this point, the sharing economy was thought of as an altruistic way to share more efficiently to save time, money, and resources. People were excited about the social element of human connection through peer-to-peer transactions and exchanges.

2013-2014, there was mass adoption and more people were using marketplaces for full time income, replacing their jobs with gigs, contracts, and flexible work through sharing economy platforms like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb.

2015, the Uber-ification of everything. This marks the rise of the on-demand economy where efficiency, deliveries, and services catered at the push of a button changed how we think about the sharing economy.

No one knew where these new companies fit in, so the industry came up with the term “on-demand” to describe services that are instantly bookable and typically wrap around on-site professionals and the delivery of goods as a service, through enhanced logistics.

This switch gave rise to a lot of venture capital influx and startups claiming stake in this sector.
 
2016, with multi-billion dollar valuations of sharing and on-demand services organizations, lawsuits and conflict with incumbents ensued in addition to the question as to what makes an employee versus a contractor. The contractor question also begs other questions, such as: who will protect the workers, how will they be taken care of long-term by way of unemployment, workers compensation, health care, and retirement.
 
 

What are, in your opinion, the main differences between the traditional e-commerce model with the new generation of marketplaces? What are the traits that differentiate the old from the new?

 
In the real world, you’d have to ask enough people to give you a ride or to crash at their place before you’d find someone who would say yes. And if they fell through, you’d probably be in a bind. With the sharing economy, you can get what you need when you need it from someone who has access to the resource you’re looking for, at the palm of your hand.
 
With traditional e-commerce, you don’t have access to the long tail of providers that are made available in peer-to-peer marketplaces, which means that these platforms have a much larger supply and wider scope of resources to draw from. Just think about it: Airbnb is the largest hotel chain in the world and yet they own no real estate and similarly, Uber is the larger taxi company and they don’t own a single car and nor do they employ drivers.

This isn’t possible with traditional e-commerce where you have to put out the capital to purchase everything from the get-go.
 

These new marketplaces are made possible because technology has given rise to online reputation, social networks, and reviews, which generates trust between strangers. Insurance, background checks, and communication mechanisms make it possible to talk without limiting privacy and these invisible layers of technology give rise to systems where strangers can feel safe in doing business with one another. The result is that we now expect to communicate with businesses in the same way we can reach out to friends and colleagues. With the same immediacy and over the same channels.

 

Are you seeing traditional companies and services transitioning to this new model? If so, which verticals in particular?

 
Many fortune 500-type companies are looking at the long-term of their business and if they are asset heavy, they are definitely thinking about offering access vs. retail ownership, are generating new marketplaces for the larger ecosystems to capture more of the market, and are thinking about how to remain relevant by playing the strengths of the rules of the new economy.
 
Larger, more established companies are also thinking about how they might emulate or integrate with existing marketplaces for labor or resources. Think: a TaskRabbit integration with IKEA built into the shopping experience or Regus working with Breather to expand their reach into smaller, more youthful on-demand office spaces around the world.
 
And finally, with the rise of on-demand services and deliveries, companies of all sizes will have to adapt to the changing landscape of business by offering equivalent timing and personalization, including the component of immediacy to their menu of options.
 
 

What advice would you give traditional companies or services evolving to this new model?

 
Consider what products that you have that could become services, what services could become marketplaces, and then look at the picture of your industry as a whole and think about how you can connect everyone.

The new model asks us to look at where value comes from and reward that as a result versus capturing, owning, or holding onto resources. There’s a lot just within that that will need to be unlearned before it’s too late.
 
 

Come Join Us!

 
 
During Twilio Talks, The Technology Layer of the Sharing Economy, we’ll discuss how the technologies that run in the background are, in large part, the reason the on-demand economy has taken such a strong foothold. Please join us!

What Powers The On-Demand Economy? A Talk With Chelsea Rustrum

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The Best Of Product Hunt

If you’re having builder’s block – a developer’s version of writer’s block – just look at Product Hunt. You might see a dev who built an anti-app that lets you summon almost anything you want (including helicopters) via text. You might see an AI-based lawyer app.

We see developers who are consistently shipping ideas that demonstrate their creativity and commitment to shipping. Here are a few of our favorite ships.
 

Locent

Locent
 
When you fire off that email to your customers, you hope they open it. But in a wash of emails destined for the “Promotions” tab, or worse – the SPAM folder, your message can get lost. Locent built a Mailchimp-esque marketing platform powered by text. Your messages get delivered straight to your customers. Matt Joseph, the founder of Locent, says that customers who opt into the text programs are likely to “be more loyal, more impulsive and faster-moving than email subscribers.”
 
 

Magic

Magic
Magic is what it sounds like – magic. Your phone is essentially a wand. You can order just about anything via text. After Justin Kan,, founder of JustinTV, took the app for what’d we’d call a “stress test” he procured a curated playlist of trap music, a helicopter, and bought a Ducati all from his phone via text, with no app — the power of magic.
 
 

Shuffle

Shuffle

If someone created a profile of you, based solely on your text message and phone call history what would it look like? Odds are it’d be a little disjointed. Disparate areas of your life all coalesce together in your phone. That can get messy.

Shuffle lets you create numbers for each pocket of your life. Now that person from Craigslist that you’re selling a computer to doesn’t have your real number. They’ve got your Shuffle Craigslist number that forwards to your phone. Shuffle helps you keep things orderly while keeping all that activity centralized in your phone.
 
 

Kanye Texts

Kanye

“My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live” – Kanye West.

Kanye can’t hide in anonymity after all the absolutely bananas things he’s said on Twitter, on national television, and on mics he stole from Taylor Swift. Luckily, you can hide out behind a Twilio-phone number to take cover from your friend’s impending rage when they get a randomly generated Kanye quote sent via text..

Christopher Drake and Matt Whiteoak challenged themselves to build something fun, with minimal software skills. They came up with Kanye Texts and the world has had a little more Yeezy in it ever since.
 
 

Let Us Know What You Build

What are some of your favorite Product Hunt hacks? Did you build something rad? Shoot us a tweet (or email the author) and let us know.

Some Of Our Favorite Product Hunt Hacks

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HBO’s smash hit Game of Thrones is set to return this weekend, and no one could be happier about it than me. Luckily, while my favorite TV show was on hiatus between seasons, I had a text-to-speech app called “Talk Obama to Me” to keep me entertained. Engadget even gave me a Game of Thrones […]

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ZanzuZanzu is the product of a collaboration between Sensoa, the Flemish Expertise Centre for Sexual Health, and BZgA (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung), the German Federal Center for Health Education.

According to DeReactie.be, “migrants that arrive in [Belgium] are often under-informed about pregnancy, contraception, and sexuality. Or even worse: sometimes they are misinformed. To do something about this, the Flemish Expertise Centrum for Sexual Health has begun a new website: Zanzu.be.”

Zanzu is meant to provide speakers of other languages in Flanders and Brussels with trustworthy information. The website is meant specially for vulnerable migrants, such as refugees.

 

The purpose of Zanzu.be is to allow the visitor to make informed choices regarding his or her sexual health, and to help him or her find a counselor. Sexual health is more than just the absence of disease and prevention of unplanned pregnancy, sexual behavior, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV. Sexual health also includes the enjoyable, pleasurable aspects of sexuality and the protection of sexual rights, including the right to treatment of STDs, the right to protection of and assistance for victims of sexual violence.

Thomas Demyttenaere, Policymaker vulnerable migrants at Sensoa.

Zanzu was made aware of ReadSpeaker through its web bureau, Nascom. ReadSpeaker was chosen due to the high number of voices and languages that are available. The implementation of ReadSpeaker on Zanzu.be was quick and simple. The listen button is very easy to find in all available languages.

The first reactions from users with regards to the ReadSpeaker functionality have been very positive. Native speakers have stated that the pronunciation is correct and the voice is easy to understand, according to Thomas Demyttenaere. For professionals who want to give advice with help from zanzu.be, a bit of imagination is necessary: for example, the use of a split screen, to see an article in two languages simultaneously. For professionals, the ReadSpeaker functionality is one of the most important and most spectacular features on the website. The only negative point for Zanzu is that ReadSpeaker is not available in Farsi, Bulgarian, and Albanian, as there are many website visitors who could be assisted by a text-to-speech functionality.

About Zanzu.be

Zanzu is created by Sensoa, the Flemish Expertise Centre for Sexual Health, and BZgA (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung), the German Federal Centre for Health Education.

Sensoa is the official partner organization of the Flemish Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Family and implements the Flemish Government’s policy on sexual health.

BZgA is a specialist authority within the portfolio of the German Federal Ministry of Health. It is responsible for health education and health promotion activities on behalf of the Federal Government. BZgA is also a WHO Europe (World Health Organization) collaborating centre for sexual and reproductive health.

The content on this website was approved by an international advisory board of European experts in the field of sexual and reproductive health including representatives of WHO.

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April 15, 2016

If you call a company with less than stellar support, you’ll communicate without really having a conversation. There are normally two problems afoot.

First, the agent doesn’t have the context they should. You’ll repeat basic information about yourself. The second problem is you didn’t want to wait on hold, you wanted to shoot someone a text to answer your question. But, that company only has one avenue for contact and that’s a problem – one Sonar solves.

This past week, Sonar, a TwilioFund recipient, was named an official Facebook partner. We also announced you can send and receive messages from Facebook using the API. We talked to Sonar about how messaging, bots, and contextual communication are changing the way businesses serve their customers.
 

Taking Conversation To Your Customers

Sonar
“We built Sonar for the conversational aspect of communication,” says Matt Berman, co-founder of Sonar. Conversation doesn’t start with a robot asking you to input your confirmation number, or you being forced to use one avenue of communication. It’s spontaneous and easy. Sonar lets businesses have conversations wherever their customers want, at scale.

Out of all the mediums customers use, messaging has been the biggest hit because of its ability to foster trust and address immediate needs.

“A customer is using mobile messaging to chat with friends and family. When you think about chatting with a company in the same way it becomes interesting. But it can’t be chatting with the company. that’s a faceless brand. It’s really powerful when you have a champion in that company, you have one person that you and you know them.”

The Power Of Contextual Messaging

Sonar customer, Bohemian Guitars, added a line of code to their website to allow users to text them questions, or contact sales. They could easily reply using Sonar’s platform, powered by Twilio SMS. That line of code and messaging ability increased Bohemian Guitar’s sales by 98%.

Messaging is becoming the go-to avenue for businesses to interact with customers whether that’s live chat, sms or — now Facebook Messenger. At Facebook’s F8 conference we announced that you can now send and receive messages through Facebook and Viber from the Twilio account portal. It’s just like dropping in a number in the “to” field of your code, except you drop in the Messenger or Viber ID.

Sonar was named an official Facebook platform partner at F8, and now offers businesses the ability to message, send status updates, embed rich media, and structure rich content from the Messenger platform.

“We’re extremely excited to be one of the first companies to leverage Facebook’s new Messenger features for connecting customers and businesses. This will allow us to continue enabling our customers to offer incredible customer experiences to their customers,” says Matt.

“Bots and AI have a lot of promise and we’re implementing these technologies to make companies more efficient while using Sonar for messaging customers.”

This caps off a busy month for Sonar. They also recently received a 200k investment from the TwilioFund, making sure they have the fuel and support they need to continue making communications more conversational.

Learn more about the TwilioFund here.

TwilioFund Backed Sonar Is Named Facebook Platform Partner, Looks To Future of Messaging Bots

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